For millions of teens, driving is considered a rite of passage, a golden ticket to freedom and independence. Learning to drive safely is of paramount importance as teens approach this important milestone.
Now in its seventh year, the National Teen Driver Safety Week is an annual awareness-raising time designated by Congress to encourage safe teen driver and passenger behavior. This year’s theme is ‘It Takes Two: Shared Expectations for Teens and Parents for Driving.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a young driver in the U.S. is involved in a fatal car crash nearly every two hours. That’s from 2011 statistics that showed more than 5,000 young drivers (ages 15-20) were involved in fatal car crashes, with more than 1,900 deaths and 180,000 injuries behind the wheel.
During the National Teen Driver Safety Week, Oct. 20-26, parents and teens are encouraged to discuss a workable strategy to ensure that teens receive supervised driving practice, beef up knowledge on critical driving skills, and work on family rules regarding teen driving at full licensure.
Tips for parents
Recent research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (FTS) found that nearly half of parents reported that they wanted their teens to “get a lot of practice,” when asked about plans for their teens’ driving, yet only about one in four parents mentioned practicing under a variety of conditions or situations, such as backing up, driving on unfamiliar roads, in heavy traffic or bad weather.
- Provide 65+ hours of supervised driving practice for your teen. Sounds challenging, but parents can keep a driving log and follow a driving lesson timeline to ensure their teens get lots of varied practice while learning to drive and are carefully monitored for the first year after receiving their license.
- Create the right learning environment – stay calm, be respectful, and give appropriate feedback.
- Know what your teen doesn’t know. A recent study by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found that 75 percent of serious teen crashes were due to a critical teen driver error. Three common errors accounted for nearly half of all serious crashes: driving too fast for conditions, being distracted, and failure to detect a hazard.
- Teach critical driving skills such as how to scan for hazards, adjusting speed for road conditions such as dense traffic, blind curves and roads that are poorly lit.
In the FTS survey, less than five percent of parents in the study were observed sharing more complex driving tips, such as visual scanning or anticipating other drivers’ behavior.
- Set a positive example by wearing your seatbelt at all times, observing all speed limits and traffic laws, minimizing distractions, and avoiding use of a cell phone when driving.
- Develop house rules for your teen’s first year of independent driving. These may include limits on peer passengers, no cell phone use, and restricted driving times (such as bi driving past 9 p.m.).
Nearly half (47 percent) of parents surveyed said there was still at least one condition where they weren’t comfortable allowing their teen to drive unsupervised even after passing their driving test and obtaining a license to drive independently.
Tips for teens
- Ask for practice with your parent. Make it easy by keeping a driving log and following a driving lesson timeline to ensure your parent gives you enough varied practice while learning to drive and careful monitoring for your first year after you obtain your license.
- Know what you don’t know. Your parent will likely focus on the three common errors that account for nearly half of all serious crashes: driving too fast for conditions on the road, being distracted behind the wheel, and failing to detect hazards.
- Ask your parent to teach you critical driving skills. You need experience and practice to learn safe speed management, how to recognize and avoid distractions and how to scan for hazards in sufficient time to react and avoid a potential crash.
- Agree on house rules you and your parents set for your first year of independent driving.